Garda HR director ‘alarmed’ by problems with Templemore finances

Head of internal audit unit says he felt duped into believing issues were being resolved

 Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan decided to establish a working group to examine the issues at the college. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan decided to establish a working group to examine the issues at the college. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Financial irregularities discovered at the Garda College but not acted on for many years would have been resolved much more quickly in the corporate sector, a senior civilian staff member in the force has said.

Garda human resources director John Barrett, who joined the force as a senior civilian officer in 2014 after a career in US multinationals, told a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee he was “alarmed” to learn about problems with the finances of the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

He was also very concerned that while two reports had been compiled into the college, a number of years had passed and the issues identified had not been resolved.

There would be “expedition more quickly” with such problems had they arisen in the corporate sector that he worked in before he joined the Garda.

Also at an almost six-hour meeting of the Public Accounts Committee that continued until Thursday night, the Garda’s head of internal audit, Niall Kelly, said he felt he had been “duped” into believing – as recently as 2015 – that issues he had raised about the Garda College were being resolved.

When “five or six years ago” he sought reports on Templemore that had been compiled in 2006 and 2008 about the problems in the college he did not receive them.

Disappointed

Mr Barrett told the PAC that in summer 2015 he had queried spending, including overtime, at the college. In the course of being supplied with information from some personnel at the college, he realised two reports had been compiled in 2006 and 2008.

These contained a series of concerns about financial governance at the college.

Just nine months into his time with the Garda, Mr Barrett contacted the Garda’s then chief administrative officer, Cyril Dunne, also a civilian.

He was asked by Mr Dunne to compile a summary of the two reports and did so. He did that work “over a weekend in July” and was disappointed to later learn that Mr Dunne had not briefed a meeting of the Garda’s audit committee later that month.However, he said he met Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in the Garda College in July 2015 and informed her there were problems at the college. She was then interim commissioner.

Their recollection of that meeting differs sharply, with Ms O’Sullivan recalling a shorter and less detailed meeting than that which Mr Barrett remembers. Ms O’Sullivan decided to establish a working group to examine the issues at the college. The report from that process was published last month and was being discussed by the PAC yesterday.

Bouquets

“I think there is a very clear role for public servants to stand up and call the truth as they find it. That’s all I did, I’m asking for no bouquets,” Mr Barrett replied.

Ms O’Sullivan said the matters first came to the attention of the Garda executive in July 2015. A high -level group, including representatives from the Department of Justice, was established. Between July 2015 and March 2016, it closed bank accounts and sought legal advice.

In March 2016, the Garda internal audit unit was appointed to examine all the issues involved, and it reported in March this year. It found financial irregularities and evidence that money was being spent on gifts and entertainment.

It also confirmed a large number of bank account, including one for laundry, which was not being used for that purpose.

An assistant commissioner is undertaking a preliminary examination of that report. The person is tasked with establishing “whether there is a case for a formal disciplinary or other investigation and if so to make recommendations as to the appropriate approach to be adopted in pursuing any investigation(s)”.